By: Meghan McGrath, Director of Marketing
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in my second Tough Mudder race. For those of you who haven’t heard of this fad, a Tough Mudder is essentially a half-marathon with muddy, grueling, and occasionally scary obstacles. The course I ran this August was just over 11 miles and included 23 obstacles. The obstacles range from crawling across rocky New Hampshire soil underneath prickly metal barbed wire to plunging down a caged slide into ice and diving under barrels in the frozen water. Some of you might read this and react as many of my friends did when I told them I was participating: “Why would anyone voluntarily do something like that?”
For me, the answer is multifaceted. Primarily I’m a fitness junkie, and a race such as this is a good way for me to push myself and measure my fitness progress throughout the year. The reason I signed up for a second time, however, is a little different. What I enjoy so much about the Tough Mudder culture is the way that the organization has fostered a culture of teamwork for their races. I say "race" rather loosely because if you ask anyone who’s done one, they will tell you that the object of a Tough Mudder is to finish and additionally to make sure everyone finishes.
On the day of the race you show up, get your bib, and get escorted off to the “warm-up zone” where you and your fellow Mudders listen to pump-up music and hear a speech from one of the race coordinators. Our pump-up champion told us things like “the Tough Mudder isn’t a race, but a challenge” and made us all raise our fists and verbally promise to help everyone around us reach the end. The spirit of camaraderie formed in the beginning of the race gave me chills. It’s everything I miss about playing team sports growing up and it’s a spirit that, unfortunately, I think is lacking in our day-to-day adult lives. Along the 11-mile journey, a stranger helped me through every obstacle, while I also had several chances to lend a hand or offer words of encouragement. Running on long stretches of trails, people would shout out encouraging words or offer a friendly high-five to passing strangers on the other side of the rope. At one particular obstacle, I felt so energized by the spirit of teamwork that I let two perfect strangers dangle me over the side of a slick, 15-foot high ramp to pull people at the bottom up the inclined half-pipe. At the end of three-hour odyssey, my roommate and I looked at each other: Physically exhausted, bruised and slightly bloodied, we exclaimed how emotionally energized we were.
When I got back the office that Monday I began to reflect on what kind of impact being on this kind of “team” had on me and how this might translate into business leadership. When everyone is responsible for making sure we all reach whatever finish line we have in sight, the rewards are exponential. Imagine if, as leaders, we fostered this spirit in our people? When there is total clarity about what the end goal is and you inspire commitment to get there together, you'll be amazed at how much potential you can unlock to overcome obstacles and succeed as a team.